Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade
Rainforest Alliance Certified
The Rainforest Alliance states that it works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices, and consumer behavior.
In the 1970's coffee farmers were introduced to modern farming techniques. Forests were cleared, agrochemicals were sprayed, and yields were increased. Simultaneously, the shaded canopies of traditional coffee farms vanished. Birds and all types of animals were displaced while rivers were choked with silt and pollutants. In 1993 the Rainforest Alliance partnered with Sustainable Agricultural Network (SAN) to demonstrate that traditional, forested coffee farms were the only choice for sustainable and harmonic farming.
The "Rainforest Alliance certification helps farmers bear the erratic swings in the global market by giving them the keys to improved farm management, negotiating leverage and access to premium markets. By implementing the SAN sustainable farm-management system, farmers can control costs, gain efficiencies and improve crop quality." (From the Rainforest Alliance Website)
"The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal is a guarantee that coffee is grown on farms where forests are protected, rivers, soils and wildlife conserved; workers are treated with respect, paid decent wages, properly equipped and given access to education and medical care. These farms are on a path toward true sustainability. Forested coffee farms are critically important to serve as migration stopovers for birds traveling from as far away as Canada and Alaska. In areas where deforestation is rampant, these coffee farms may be the only habitat available to provide shelter and food for wary birds." (from the Rainforest Alliance Website)
So although Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance are similar in their intended results, they take different paths to achieve their goals.
Fair Trade Coffee
Fair Trade offers a viable solution to these very real situations by paying farmers a fair minimum price for their coffee. Importers that are certified Fair Trade have met stringent international criteria, pay a guaranteed minimum price per pound of coffee, and therefore allow farmers to secure credit for sustainable growth. Economically viable farms lead to stronger communities, health care, education, and environmental stewardship. A person that feels like they can earn a living will work to better their lives, their children, and their land. Fair Trade plants seeds of hope.